Bring out and discuss the ethical issues involved: Kierkegaard’s ideal of ‘Leap of Faith’.

Civil Services Main Examination

General Studies (Paper - 4) : Model Question & Answers


Question: A poor man has an ailing wife, he has spent all his savings and money on her medical treatment. One evening, she is struggling with her life but the man has no money to buy the life saving drugs.

Answer: (i) Do you think he should steal the drug in order to save the life of his wife?

In such an unfortunate case if the man is coerced to ‘steal’ life saving drugs then I believe it can be illegal but it may not be immoral in true sense of the term. Stealing can be understood as an act at the level of thought, word and deed, whereby one tries to take hold of something that does not belong to one. In such an act the principal motive can be greed, envy or arrogance, where one tries to treat others as a means to one’s vested interests. Moreover, such an act can be primarily voluntary, that is out of choice.

But in the given case, one’s act at the level of thought is not motivated by any ignoble intent but with love and respect for human life. In fact, the way Gandhi ji has explained Asteya, which is an act of himsa, the act of this case cannot be characterized as Asteya since it seems to be an act of ahimsa- love and compassion is the primary motive. Somewhat, it comes close to Kierkegaard’s ideal of ‘Leap of Faith’ where conventional morality can be suspended for a higher purpose and in this case that higher purpose is ‘life, since overridingness of saving a life can be recognized. However, if the man ‘steals’ the drug then he must hold oneself legally responsible and shall either pay back the medical storekeeper in cash or kind or shall submit oneself to law enforcement agency.

(ii) Bring out and discuss the ethical issues involved in the above case.

The ethical issues are as follows: Most importantly, it is an issue of right to life, it is indeed our collective failure that we have not been able to ensure quality medical care and employment across sections of society. In case we punish the man for stealing the drug as it can be seen as a legal offence then morally we may feel like punishing him twice, since to begin with he is a victim first.